Unionists have to be nudged to talk, with the incentives of common citizenship and other common interests

Enda Kenny is surely right to be cautious about setting up an “all-Ireland forum” Better to have a “conversation” at least to start with in November.  Even so its ability to speak for all Ireland would be seriously weakened  by the absence of  unionists,  just as it would be counter- productive  for the unionists not to take part eventually .  As things stand, Northern Ireland’s regional government is therefore neither formally or informally to be represented. A fully fledged forum would risk being represented as a pan-nationalist front and therefore a focus for division rather than unity.  Whatever the DUP might think, it seems that the north-south ministerial council is not regarded as an adequate forum, presumably because parties outside government north and south are not members.   Their Inclusion is essential, particularly given the fragile nature of the government on the Republic.

But this raises the old problem of a unionist veto. Should it be overridden or got round somehow?  . Civil society in the north might be reluctant to take part in the forum if the DUP actively opposed it.   Gerry Adams seems to be saying, go ahead without them; the problems of Brexit for the whole island are too important to wait for the unionist minority to catch up. This sounds very statesmanlike but behind it lies familiar point scoring which takes priority over northern solidarity.

But of course there is DUP positioning to contend with.  They will at least want to follow the Westminster route first and wait to be asked for their input into the UK government’s negotiating position. They are fearful of any shadowy new Irish body  that might somehow take on the outline of an embryo united Ireland fathered by as yet unknown Brexit consequentials.

As ever Sinn Fein will want the best of both worlds. The Irish government is somewhere in the middle, with their own Brexit issues apart from the north’s to contend with. They won’t want to be distracted by northern feuding. But the more Dublin champions the north’s interests, the more difficult it will be for the unionists to stay outside Irish machinery for consultation.

On the basic proposition for a forum there are issues common to north and south that would clearly benefit from common consideration.  The continuation of EU funding after 2020 is just one of them – if the Republic is able to champion it under a cross border label. It seems a tall order. Another is Enda Kenny’s concerns for “many people in the North entitled to an Irish passport “who might find themselves in a country that has withdrawn from the EU, having voted in 1998 for their freedom of movement up and down this island at will”.

Do British citizens in the north who want the same thing deserve any less? It seems inconceivable that they should be discriminated against by a state desperate to keep the border  open and so committed to reconciliation.

Beyond the right of  different representation abroad, British and Irish citizenship is interchangeable in the north. It should be made explicitly so throughout the island, whatever happens on free movement for British citizens in the rest of the EU.  Guarantees for citizens as yet unborn may be needed, even though Irish citizens were explicitly   recognised as not foreign in the UK as long ago as 1949 after Ireland became republic outside the Commonwealth.   A separate agreement on citizenship on the island of Ireland is looking necessary.

Before any of this is broached, consultations between the Westminster government  and   Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont  may have to come first. But citizenship is just one of many reasons why the unionist parties should eventually be steered by the British government in the direction of  all-Ireland  talking.  It seems obvious that it could strengthen the hand of everyone in the north, if both governments are arguing their case, one inside the EU and the other departing.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • MainlandUlsterman

    re-entry into the United Kingdom for the 26 counties? Well, if you think you can sell it down there …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    nobody’s saying we won’t talk to our neighbours … we just want to do it in the usual way we’re all comfortable with. Feels more like being dragged down to the neighbour’s favourite pub where all his mates are and having to sit there and listen to them talking about people you don’t know, and drink cider even though you don’t like it, because they insist.

  • grumpy oul man

    “Why don’t Irish nationalists pull together their own group if they want”
    Yes the best way to approach a new and unpredictable situation that will have bring major changes to the way we live, none will be exempt from the effect of Brexit.
    so you think the way to get the best possible deal for us all is to negotiate and persuade in small separate groups!
    No common message, nationalist farmers competing with unionist farmers for whatever crumbs we are offered (because divide the debate along sectarian or political lines will seriously weaken any deal and deal we get offered)
    Unionism, unless it secures the deal of a lifetime, which is highly unlikely will suffer more perhaps than nationalism.
    Nationalist leaders will be able to point at the English and say, Look haw badly those people treat us, better off in a UI.
    Unionists will have no such luxury, and may well have to answer to the many unionists who voted remain!

  • grumpy oul man

    But they will be talking about things and people you know, its going to be about Brexit for gods sake not the Kerry football team!
    The Drink cider bit is just weird, I don’t think anybody will be forced to eat drink or do anything they don’t want to do.
    nobody is asking anybody to swear allegiance to the republic or recognize the authority of the Papacy.
    The whole Island, everybody on the Island will be affected,
    This is a all Island issue and people from all over the island should consult on how to approach it.
    Unionists would be better served in than out.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we’ll have our say, there’s no issue with that

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, I was suggesting the Northern Ireland administration represents the interests of people in Northern Ireland and the Dublin government those of people in the Republic. Is that complicated? They do sort of need separate representation as one lot of people are Brexiting and the other not. Assuming a single “Irish voice” makes no sense. We should try and reach agreement of course, but we do so from a starting point of having different, if related, interests to protect.

  • grumpy oul man

    But the say will be just yours, it will lack a understanding of those also involved, that will weaken it.
    Do you want a open border or checkpoints back, how would we like our airports to handle visas,

    what about movement of labour,

    A animal might be bought in Galway raised in Antrim, slaughtered in Monanghan, processed in Armagh and sold in Dublin, 4 border crossings,
    Not a exhaustive list but one that clearly shows that joined up thinking and a joined up approach between both the ROI and NI would benefit us all.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There’s plenty to discuss between our government and the Republic and I’m sure plenty we’ll agree on. We should be talking a lot. But we also have to be allowed to take different positions where NI views and interests are different. There’s also the question of democratic accountability. So we’re fine with the current structures and producing some new working parties on the issue out of those.

  • grumpy oul man

    Nobody is suggesting that ROI or NI cease to represent their peoples, what is being said is that an many issues we could have a united approach, any meeting or forum would be able to recognize those issues and decide on a strategy to obtain them.
    The ” we will never forsake the blue sky’s of Ulster for the grey sky’s of a Irish republic” response is a over reaction based on paranoia and will not serve the people of NI well.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we will I’m sure have the same view on a lot of issues, that’s all good. Not sure why you’re so insistent on them being arrived at through some odd new structure that by-passes the ones we agreed to use for this kind of co-operation.

  • grumpy oul man

    this issue is different fro anything we expected to have to deal with when we set up the present structures.
    I don’t see what is odd about the idea of the affected parties getting together to agree on the best way forward.
    Not doing it is odd!

  • grumpy oul man

    Nobody ever suggested that you would not be allowed to do anything,

    What are these questions of democratic accountability! elected representatives and civil servants consulting interested parties and agreeing points to pursue together is what the rest of the world call politics.
    And i am sure you are fine with the current structures, however the “we’re” bit might be a bit of a claim, the majority of people in NI voted to stay and the main unionist party pushed for leave.
    More than a few unionists believed they had a better future in Europe and

  • billypilgrim1

    Of course you’re allowed to comment. I’m glad you do, and hope you will continue to for many years to come.

    I just pointed out that ideological purity costs you nothing, as you look on voyeuristically from overseas. But it’s a different story for those of us who actually live here.

    However, I’m grateful for your good wishes. Many thanks. I’m pleased to say I think there are reasons to be optimistic.

  • billypilgrim1

    Needs must, M(sic)U.

    NI politicians have an opportunity not available to their Scottish or Welsh counterparts, which is to enlist the backing of a sovereign state – a sovereign state which is one of the UK’s most important bilateral partners. This has the potential to make us something rather more than just another bunch of provincial petitioners.

    Why on earth wouldn’t we avail of that opportunity?

    (Of course I know your reason. You are one of those most dangerous and destructive of people – you are a utopian.)

  • MainlandUlsterman

    If we reach agreement with the Irish, great. Nothing I have suggested precludes that or makes it less likely.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Lord! How to reply to that?

    I will not be going “with the flow” as you put it. I’m in the middle-aged cohort so there will be no ‘flow’ to bother me. If you are indeed an ‘oul man’ it’s all so much more academic for you. You really must not believe anything D’gerry Adams tells you. A UI is not around the corner. I’m afraid you’ll have to continue as a thrall of the ‘invader’.

    You should get out more. Meet some real unionists; not the mythic ones conjured in your fevered imagination. The vast majority of unionists have no interest in the OO’s charitable status, or indeed much else about that organisation. An organisation that has I believe a membership of some 30k-40k, out of a ‘Protestant’ population of several hundreds of thousands.

    Should a UI ever actually materialise in the real world there will be no unionist version of SF. Hundreds of thousands of my “community” will not tolerate, or vote for, an organisation steeped in violence. The PUP will continue to bob along the bottom of voter acceptability, as it does today.

    That’s not to say that unionists are not “emotional” (they are human after all, as I said before, get out and meet some). If it ever comes to it their ’emotions’ will not lead to bombs in restaurants and shopping centres. An Garda Síochána will be able to patrol without fear for their lives.

    I fear you vastly overestimate the importance of the opinions of the “many nationalists” on this site. The Irish electorate is rather greater in number than the handful of posters here who have pronounced on the future of the Irish flag and National Anthem. The voters will want their say. If asked.

    Perhaps you’ll be surprised that their ’emotions’ might just be more exercised on the subject than the fantasy United-Irelanders on Slugger give them credit for.

  • Hugh Davison

    Sorry MU, but you weren’t in the line-up.

  • Hugh Davison

    I could be offended on behalf of glaucoma sufferers, but I won’t.

  • grumpy oul man

    ” will not tolerate, or vote for, an organization steeped in violence. ”

    I thought we had this fairy tale sorted out long ago.
    Unionists do vote for parties who have no qualms with violence, UWC strike, Drumcree, AIA, Flegs, the fact that they get others to carry it out while they cheer on from the sidelines does not mean their hands are clean.
    Unionists murdered people in 1966 to keep the status quo, in 69 they attacked peaceful marchers to maintain the status quo, burnt Catholics out of their houses , stood on platforms and coordinated political activities with active murderous terrorists to maintain the status quo.
    Ian Paisley was in their winding it up and then letting young working class lads take the Jail time, he set up two (third force and ulster resistance) terror groups which went on to murder random Catholics and he became the leader of unionism, so please stick to history not fairy tale.
    As for bombs in restaurants when unionists get emotional, does the Dublin and Monaghan bombings count or how about McGurks,

    As for the PUP, why vote for the monkey when the Organ Grinder is standing for election.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I entirely agree that this is an issue that requires some clarity. I’ve just posted some comments on this ambiguity to another poster:

    “The Belfast Agreement is full of ambiguities and evasions. This was of course something of a necessity in preparing any document that two political camps utterly opposed to one another would need to sign. But on the issue of sovereignty, for one thing, it has leant heavily on the habits of partially surrendered sovereignty which the EU has developed in all its members. The exit vote, while in part a protest vote, has also been a response to the sovereignty ambiguities we have all grown accustomed to over the last forty years. We have disagreed over the extent of joint sovereignty in NI in the past, but one thing is very certain, any polity, such as NI, where it has been accepted that it is “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments” has relinquished a substantial part of its sovereignty. This could be glossed over, along side other issues in the Belfast Agreement, as long as it was under the blanket of joint EU membership, but with a potential assertion full British sovereignty, it is to say the very least becoming stretched.”

    The problem is that this question you pose “The question is should NI remain with full UK Westminster Sovereignty or NI jointly governed by UK & ROI Sovereignty ” has already been fully answered by a declaration that both governments accept a Northern Ireland where its population are citizens of two separate states. Even if the RoI has dropped its constitutional claim to sovereignty over the six northern counties of Ireland, the United Kingdom has also in turn dropped its claim to the allegiance of the population of those counties. This unspoken acceptance of a form of joint authority is part of the underlying tension of things now that the oil of EU membership no longer lubricates the astringency of the ambiguity of status. For myself, such evasions and equivocations, while they may be useful for short term political goals such as getting inimical political camps to sign the same paper, are only putting aside unresolved issues for the future,a future that is now with us with exit from the EU. I am entirely with you in believing this is an issue which requires some clarification.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    So, Roger, you are unfamiliar with contract wording? Having had to carefully analyse such wording in my film career, I am all too aware of the kind of ambiguities which may be employed to permit the exercise of unspoken intentions at some future point. I’ve just answered someone else on this very issue:

    “The Belfast Agreement is full of ambiguities and evasions. This was of course something of a necessity in preparing any document that two political camps utterly opposed to one another would need to sign. But on the issue of sovereignty, for one thing, it has leant heavily on the habits of partially surrendered sovereignty which the EU has developed in all its members. The exit vote, while in part a protest vote, has also been a response to the sovereignty ambiguities we have all grown accustomed to over the last forty years. We have disagreed over the extent of joint sovereignty in NI in the past, but one thing is very certain, any polity, such as NI, where it has been accepted that it is “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments” has relinquished a substantial part of its [British] sovereignty.”

    As you say, all set out there in black and white but worded ambiguously so as not to frighten popular Unionist opinion. Call me suspicious (certainly regarding test groups, where in my career I’ve seen them persuaded to think contrary things by a simple re-wording of questions) but in my experience those who do not read between the lines get gulled by shysters. For anyone who genuinely cares about either the Union or about a United Ireland it is all important to avoid succumbing to wishful thinking along popular lines of thought such as you are indulging in here. Read the Agreement and if you cannot find an aspiration to a future United Ireland therein, you are simply not looking at its wording properly.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Surely, Jarl, you are not suggesting that no-one in Unionism can answer the points I’m raising and that I’m somehow obliged to argue both ends of the discussion? I have looked in vain for any instance where in postings committed Unionist posters personally follow your history master’s advice regarding the sympathetic handling of each side of a discussion. I await your own commendatory elegy for Sinn Féin with some interest.

    I think perhaps you are mistaking the arguments I’m making on Slugger for my own personal historiography. But regarding the charge on “bias”, Unionism is unquestionably responsible for the inception of the violence in Irish politics after 1910, and with its refusal to even talk to the IPP it certainly was the principal political grouping which pushed up the political stock of violent separatism in Ireland. In this, I am simply recording what Unionism actually did and the consequences of these actions, something I’ve yet to be seriously challenged over here. Now, perhaps the UUC did not mean what it did to lead to the things that transpired, but its attempts to simply wreck Home Rule removed constitutionalism from the scene in Ireland and brought in the gun as arbiter. In this Unionism put itself firmly in the stocks for any reasonable person who believes in the rule of law, and I’d met this argument from critics of Unionism in the old NILP when I was in my teens back in the 1960s. Most of these people believed in the Union with Britain itself, but not in Political Unionism, something I’d commend to anyone here as strongly as I’d commend nationalists to support constitutionalist parties rather than resort to violence. Political Unionism has always had a shadow of violence implicit in its makeup.

    In writing actual history I’m certainly concerned to fully unpack the endless complexities of this very messy political heritage in the north, but on Slugger I’m simply trying to make Unionists think about their own particular inheritance, and in this question their current historical certainties and party political commitments. Do you think this is a bad thing, was Unionism always “right” and beyond any criticism in each and every thing it did? The steady refusal to re-think the Unionist position with a regular knee jerk default to “not an inch” and cry of “Lundy” for anyone who does is not tow a party line is hardly a formula for continuity in a very changing world. Personally, I actually value the dissenter tradition enough to wish it to grow, change and survive to enrich a future Ireland rather than to wither and expire amid the dusty rags of a revenant late nineteenth century British Empire jingoism ringing still with the ignorant malice of Dr Henry Cooke, Roaring Hugh Hannah and Robert Routledge Kane. We’re all worth far, far more than that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the democratic accountability thing is that the GFA structures were specifically approved by referenda in NI and ROI. They represent the agreed way of working. You can’t set up new political all-Ireland structures outside that without at the very least clearing that with both legislatures. Otherwise you’re foisting an unapproved political structure on the NI people to negotiate the big issue of the day – clearly wrong on both a moral and political level.

  • Roger

    I had rather hoped you’d point out an ambiguity to back up your opinion. Maybe you’re having difficulties finding one?
    We already discussed what the agreement really says the supposed “birthright” of the “people of Northern Ireland” to choose British or Irish nationality, right? No ambiguity was left in the Agreement about it. Remember the provisions in the Annexe to the Agreement?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh dear Roger, you are apparently still not getting the all important point that while individuals may choose either British or Irish identity (or both) the polity is now composed of citizens with either or both of these political allegiances. Accordingly the polity of NI is in limbo under the joint authority of both governments who “guarantee” the terms of the Agreement, something the ROI could not subscribe to if it had no authority to implement its commitments in the north. This is something very different to either straightforward British or Irish sovereignty over the place, and implies a joint authority, or joint sovereignty supporting the immediate exercise of a majority within the polity of their choice of identity. Another important pointer is the re-iteration of the “two governments” in almost every clause of the agreement. While both governments currently guarantee “the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom” they also “affirm that, if in the future, the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii) above to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish”. But both governments stand as guarantor, not simply the British Government itself acting alone with an unlimited sovereignty over the six counties. Effectively, this describes joint sovereignty over a polity which is currently politically bound to Britain, but this current expression of identity does not function in any absolute sense outside of the joint guarantee. This is not simply opinion, its a practical acknowledgement of a joint authority guarantee, vesting sovereignty in two external entities.

    I know this may be hard for you to grasp, but it is very important to get this right as it has some very serious implications for the steady drift of NI towards the United Ireland solution that has been the preferred option for Britain ever since 1910.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    You do really need to reflect more. Read back over some of your own postings.

    As for your “historiography”. The evidence is pretty clear on where you’re coming from. What is “unquestionably” the case for you is not so for others. The “inception of the violence in Irish politics after 1910” happened when an unarmed policeman was shot in the face outside Dublin Castle by nationalists. You of course seek to deny agency to those nationalists and desire to lay the responsibility of that murder, and the death and destruction that followed at the feet of self-serving unionists of the “merchant class” in the north.

    Although, perhaps I missed the bit when the UVF stormed Belfast City Hall, shooting police on the way, and then opening fire on the Army.

    Or did they in actual fact besiege City Hall with pen and ink, and then prance about in uniform making threats. Threats that never materialised. I wonder if it had ever come down to it would they really have fired on the British Army? We will never know.

    The responsibility for the violence is with those who “introduced the gun into Irish politics” by pulling the trigger. The explanation of 1916 is the same as the one that explains what subsequently happened in 1919; when nationalists again decided that they needed a war and that the only way to start one was killing people, as they then did at Soloheadbeg.

    The ‘big boys made me do it’ paradigm does not apply. No unionists were involved.

    Allow me to end this conversation by saying that I do not subscribe any malice on your part. At worst you are guilty of confirmation bias. Perhaps, given your membership of the “elite”, it’s an outworking of a peculiarly Irish version of ‘liberal guilt’.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    I confess I’m surprised by your reply. Much as I am when a Monday follows Sunday. I purposefully left the door open and you obligingly stepped through. It is equally no surprise that you edit your reply to focus on one point.

    1966. Four years after the nationalist terrorist “Operation [Corpse] Harvest” had petered out and during the heightened atmosphere of the 50th anniversary of the murderous assault on Dublin by nationalist terrorists.

    The loyalist murderers were quickly investigated, arrested, put before a court and jailed. Not, as you probably suppose, by the fairies, but by the ‘unionist’ police and the ‘unionist’ judiciary. In short order time the Unionist Government proscribed the ‘UVF’.

    All at the height of the “Orange State” too!

    1969. The tumult and violence of that time was not as you imply a one-sided affair. Protestants were also victims of the conflagration. I expect you forget about that too.

    Paisley. Ian Paisley was a rabble-rouser who grew to prominence alongside the mayhem that engulfed NI. Again, I’m sure you’ll be taken aback to learn that the violence was not all originating from the unionist community. He was a political opportunist and hitched his star to a series of unsavoury characters, latterly Martin McGuinness.

    However it is a stretch to portray a mirror image between unionists and their flirtations with loyalist terrorists and the symbiotic relationship between SF and the IRA – a relationship evidenced by the UK, Irish and US Governments. Unionists stepped away when groups such as ‘Ulster Resistance’ became involved in overt criminality and terrorism. They condemned such. Not always with the vigour one would have hoped for, but they did condemn.

    Unionist leaders did not front-up TV interviews to support terrorist outrages, unlike some of the leaders within nationalism. I am talking of SF here. A spectacle that grew so gruesomely vile that a broadcasting ban was imposed. A ban that was subsequently circumvented by the media.

    Perhaps you’ll link to a unionist leader celebrating a terrorist murder in a SF manner. You must have based your opinion on something concrete, surely?

    My advice would be to avoid the “Invasion of Clontibret”. Breaking a few windows and punching a policeman, before scuttling back across the border, pails rather when compared to nationalist terrorist “spectaculars”. Don’t you think?

    Finally I notice how you seek to dismiss the PUP, the actual mirror image of SF. Does its derisory showing in the polls rather defeat your argument?

  • Roger

    “Individuals may choose either British or Irish identity (or both)”. Individuals can choose to identify however they very well like. Some say British, Irish, Northern Irish, Ulter-ish, Pink or blue. If we wish to speak of nationality or citizenship, those are legal concepts. We can usefully speak of those. We’ve already explored the rather modest things the Belfast Agreement says about them.

    “limbo” and “jount authority of the two governments”. Plainly unsubstantiated claims. The actual text typed up and enrolled of the Belfast Agreement includes nothing of the sort. The Agreement spells out the UK alone is the sovereign state in the territory concerned. Purely international bodies have by agreement been established to manage marginal and well defined extremely limited areas of activity. Waterways Ireland etc. If there’s joint authority or joint sovereignty, how would Northern Ireland be leaving the EU without Ireland’s support. There’s just nothing in the modest Belfast Agreement to substantiate these tall claims.

    Yes both governments “guarantee” the terms of the agreement. No different to how they would and do any other international agreement. That’s the nature of international agreements. Don’t make them if you’re not prepared to stand by the terms.

    You think references to “two governments” has some significance? Wasn’t it signed by two governments? What else would you have them describe themselves as. In the Agreement Ireland’s government expressly acknowledges Northern Ireland is in the UK. Not Ireland. It doesn’t pretend for a moment to be the or a government of Northern Ireland.

    The governments do indeed agree the circumstances in which the UK could be required to cede Northern Ireland to Ireland. That in no way affects who is the sovereign government today. Voluntary cession of territory from one state to another is extremely rare in modern times. If it happens as regards Northern Ireland that would indeed be a change in sovereignty. Until then, there is none. The Belfast Agreement’s main changes around all of this were to change the statutory emphasis to a majority for the union to a majority for a united Ireland. Big deal indeed. It changes nothing. Plus add extra requirements to a united Ireland (concurrent referendum approval in Ireland) which does change things insofar as making a united Ireland procedurally more cumbersome to achieve.

    Austen Morgan writes well on these topics. You seem deeply confused about what the Belfast Agreement actually provides. I recommend his writings to you.

  • billypilgrim1

    This exchange between Jarl and Sean will be a useful exhibit to future historians interested in the damage that unionism as an ideology has done to Ulster’s Protestants, intellectually and morally.

  • billypilgrim1

    What did that poor old analogy ever do to you? The way you tortured it, I haven’t seen the like of since the first season of The Fall.

  • billypilgrim1

    It sounds like a tedious evening all right. Sometimes you do have to go along to these things, though. I’d say we’ve all been there.

    Wouldn’t it be weird if you responded to the invitation by screaming ‘Nevaaar!’ over and over again, by declaring the invitation a threat to your very identity, and that you would rather eat grass?

    People might think the issue wasn’t really with the pub, the conversation or even the cider. People might think the problem was with you.

  • AntrimGael

    Let’s be honest. If Unionism could get a 300 mile brick wall border built from Newry to Derry patrolled by tanks and machine gun turrets they would take your arm off. You just CANNOT change the fundamental, bigoted sectarian DNA of Unionism. It is their entire raison d’etre.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Not at all confused, Roger, just grown careful and most cynical from a lifetime of having to be the right side of spending the money of other people, a fine preparation for looking more deeply into things which appear light and rosy on the surface.

    I’d recommend that you read the backhistory of the thinking which went int the Agreement, such as Kearney’s 1983 paper, to see where the terms of the Agreement actually came from and what they point to, behind those bland aspirations. As I’d mentioned before, I’ve had to read what a people actually “mean” rather than what they “say” at production meetings, as any failure to do this and call people there and then on ambiguity would permit misunderstandings to eat up even a substantial film budget in a few months with little to show for it. I got quite name as a “lucky” producer, but it was hard legalistic questioning of statement and the text of minutes (against my own minutes) rather than any pure luck.

    The kind of discreet sovereignty which was the norm before 1939 has been very fully eroded by international bodies, by membership the EU, and by the manner in which large Free Trade agreements driven by US requirements first and foremost. Sovereignty simply “ain’t wot it used to be”. A polity composed of those owing full allegiance to two different states who are signed up to guarantee the rights of both allegiances simply cannot be under the full and undivided sovereignty of ether. If that were so the other simply could not guarantee anything, only the sovereign power could do that. The Belfast Agreement is couched most ambiguously here, suggesting one thing but implying quite another thing. You have to follow the authorisations to “read” what is going on, such as Britain’s clear recognition of Ireland’s role in guaranteeing the rights of their citizens in the north, just as Britain guarantees the rights of British citizens here, and the possibility of any full and undivided sovereignty simply disappears. You are also ignoring the implication of Britain’s recognising the legitimacy of re-union with the rest of Ireland (an implication too of the Government of Ireland Act 1920 which set up NI) while smiling only on what you imagine to be “the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, [when] they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain”. Of course I’ve substituted “when” for “whether”, but this is not what it says, instead it states that both governments “recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland.” No guarantee of continuing British sovereignty there. Or in clause 5 of the opening section where

    “It is accepted that all of the institutional and constitutional arrangements – an Assembly in Northern Ireland, a North/South Ministerial Council, implementation bodies, a British-Irish Council and a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and any amendments to British Acts of Parliament and the Constitution of Ireland – are interlocking and interdependent and that in particular the functioning of the Assembly and the North/South Council are so closely inter-related that the success of each depends on that of the other.”

    Successful “interlocking and interdependent” bodies can only function effectively with actual authority, in this case as expressions of a joint authority. You really need to look at what the document is telling you, over and above what you’d want it to say!

    Of course I recognise fully your birthright to simply read the Agreement at a surface skim and to believe that you fully understand it as a sincere and unambiguous document. Such innocence and credibility will ensure that Unionism is entirely unprepared for what is to come shortly. Much as I deplore the actions of the UUC in 1911 they were far from foolish in seeking for detailed legal advice and a carefully prepared “Statement of Case” from an old cynic like Carson who could see each and every loophole in his opponents position and construct intelligent defences. But with your trustful reliance that the Belfast Agreement simply means what it seemingly says “on the tin”, for tired old cynics like myself who were once paid to distrust everything, I’m afraid that all I can see is disappointment approaching as the end product of such innocence. I have nothing to loose here, you however are betting your conception of the type of community you wish to live in on the soundness of an agreement made by, (wait for it), politicians and lawyers with their own agendas! “Caveat emptor……..”

    Austen Morgan is of course a legal expert who is representing the policy of a Westminster Conservative administration (one of the signatories of the Agreement), and in his writings he is presenting a particular legal opinion on this. I’ve had to draft and re-draft a few statement of case documents regarding contractual conflicts in my time. Lawyers, especially those whose legal position I fully appreciate, simply don’t intimidate me!

  • grumpy oul man

    your myth that unionists do not vote for those who engage in violence needed to be compared to actual facts.
    Google statements by Paisley during the 1966 flag incident or during the UWC lock out, see if David Trimble will tell us what he discussed with Billy right at Drumcree just before the LVF upped its sectarian murder campaign.
    What was Peter doing with the UVF in Clontribet (remember the UVF sectarian murderers), did somebody Photoshop Ian and peter at the UR rally’s.
    As for dismissing the PUP, well if they perhaps had spent less time working out and reading Andy Mc Nab books in prison and maybe got a education thing might be different, but a resort to sectarian murder when they can take time out from their Drug dealing and protection rackets they do turn up to supply cannon fodder for the DUP (flegs protests anyone),
    I’m no big fan of SF but to compare their polished capable and political to a group of barely educated criminals.
    Sorry Jarl you lost this one that pesky old history thing will not go away.

  • Nevin

    “Unionists have to be nudged to talk”

    I think all of our local political parties can talk; they just turn a deaf ear to the mitherings of their political opponents. London and Dublin will whisper honeyed words but they’ll put their own perceived best interests to the fore; NI might just get a few scraps from the top table.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Try putting your prejudice to one side for a few moments if you can. Unionism is not some big scary monster. It’s not going to creep into your bedroom at night and shout ‘boo!’ to awaken you from your restful nationalist slumber.

    Unionism hardly amounts to an “ideology”. It is simply a political choice. I know that nationalists are compelled to regard unionists as either unthinking compliant fools (colonists/planters) or malevolent thugs (knuckle-draggers/flegists), but you know we’re all human, just like you as it happens. Ok so we have the temerity to have a different political opinion and what’s more to go against the Law Decreed By God that an island MUST be ONE distinct polity. But there you have it.

    Merely being a unionist does not “damage” people intellectually or morally; we are not lesser beings. That’s just your own bigotry speaking.

    Emancipate yourself from mental slavery bp1, or perhaps the ‘future’ will look back on you and be astounded that such distasteful pejorative views were once common currency.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Jarl, the usual Unionist selectivity at play I see. In 1910 the IRB was a tiny powerless fringe group, discounted even by the more influential separatist groups. It only gained national status with the formation of the Irish Volunteers and its infiltration of that body. The Irish Volunteers were a reactive body formed only after the UVF set the fashion for weaponry’s use in the political arena. As Eoin MacNeill claimed in 1913 “the North Began…” Not only MacNeill of course, a rather apolitical Helen Waddell also blamed the UVF in a letter written just after the 1916 Easer Rising:

    “What Sir Edward Carson did was to break down the hold that constitutional Government had at last sown in Ireland. He proved that a threat of physical force could paralyse ‘Government by the will of the majority’. ” (Corregin, D.F., “Helen Waddell, a Biography”, 1986, p. 184, for the whole letter).

    She also notes that “Ulster never feared religious persecution for itself.” and in an earlier letter said that Carson (and by inference the UUC) “practically created Sinn Fein”. ”

    I don’t deny agency to the nationalists themselves, but without the UVF they would never in month of Sundays have had the opportunity to build the mass organisation they used in 1916 and later, and the IRB and Sinn Féin would have been what Yeats calls parties of “The Garrets and the Cellars”, too small and insignificant for any possible role in engaging the entire country in their violent separatism. Do you remember the rare pathetic IRA campaign of the 1950s? I do, a school friend’s father was killed, but as revolutions go it quickly went.

    The “pulling of the trigger” is an interesting one. Are you suggesting that building an armed force with the intent to fight, and inspiring another which actually “pulled the trigger” should somehow be entirely free of any responsibility for what happened? The UVF came very close to having to enter the field itself and prove its belligerence with more than a few route marches and parades. If you actually knew the history you’d have encountered how close the north came to this with the aborted attempt by Winston Churchill to arrest the UUC and the UVF leadership in March 1918, under the leadership of the most professional man available for dealing with civil disturbance, Sir Neville Macready. It was recognised that the instant the UVF fired on British Soldiers the Conservative support they enjoyed in England would evaporate and their “cause” would be entirely discredited. The attempt to call their bluff failed with Macready’s bout of malaria leaving the forces involved leaderless and the UUC now warned, but the dangers of violence were well known and accepted by the more belligerent Unionists. Others were hedging their bets. When the influential Irish Conservative Horace Plunkett had spoken to Carson about his scheme for the inclusion of the north in Home Rule with strong safeguards at a meeting on 16th February 1914:

    “Carson confessed his incapacity to control his own forces. He does not at all agree with their view and would be quite easy to come to terms with on my scheme if he were master in his own house.”

    Carson’s own distancing of his position from the hard liners in the north said it all. In 1914 Ireland was tottering on the brink of a shooting war none would come out of credibly, and in which the entire Unionist position might be politically discredited by its own raising of stakes. The UUC and UVF were recognised by all reasonable liberal people in 1916 as having culpability for what occurred at Easter 1916, something they northern Unionists compounded with their tactics in the 1917/18 Irish Convention, when with the old “Not an Inch” tactic they finally sank the constitutionalism of the old IPP and pragmatic moderation the southern Unionists for good, clearing the stage for the recourse to violence, the electoral victory Sinn Féin in 1919 and paving the way for the inevitable structural recourse to violence which has marked the last century in the north. After all, they showed that nothing but violence or hits threat actually pays here.

    I seldom quote scripture, but I can’t resist quoting Matthew 7, vs.IV:

    “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

    Oh, and this “liberal guilt” has been going on at least since an ancestor of mine, one of the founders of the Linen Hall Library, was a member the Second Belfast Volunteer Company and present at the Dungannon Conventions to spout his own brand of “Universal Brotherhood” peace and reconciliation. After a couple of centuries this inheritance is more likely to be a recognition of the need for fair and decent behaviour as the foundation of society than any current “guilt” fad. But thanks at least for recognising the absence of malice!

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Discussing anything with you is akin to starting out to walk across the Star Bog after a prolonged spell of rain, and whilst wearing oversized gumboots. You know you’re not going to get anywhere but the first couple of steps gives rise to some confidence: ‘I can do this!’.

    Then you get bogged down and have to realise that your journey is pointless.

    So now that we’ve established that you bring little to the table answer me a much more straightforward question. If you would?

    Why is it that nationalists tend to say things like ‘I’m not a Sinn Fein voter …’ before they launch into an enthusiastic cheer for all things SF? The same thing occurs when it comes to mention of SF’s alter ego, the so-called IRA. There you find: ‘I condemn terrorism…. but wasn’t the Ra very professional and accomplished, you’ve got to hand it to them’.

    Your own “polished capable and political” is a case in point.

    And before I go, and just to add to your education on all things unionist. With regards to the PUP; it is neither their literature choices, or their proclivities in the gym, that turned off the voters. Rather it was the activities that lead them to a prison cell in the first place that was found to be, let me be polite here, distasteful.

    I’ll let the implication in your post, that nationalist prisoners were/are a better class of convicted terrorist, rest without further comment.

  • Roger

    Should I decide to commission a film, I would be sure to let you know.

    You’ve made such tall claims as that the Belfast Agreement left Northern Ireland in limbo and joint sovereignty. Yet you can’t back them up. I’ve pointed to Brexit as a practical example of why such a claim is clearly mumbo jumbo.

    Things being interlocking etc. That’s hardly surprising. The Belfast Agreement is a deal if you like. The parties can’t be free to just pick the bits of the deal they like. That doesn’t express ‘Joint Authority’. Such a fanciful interpretation.

    Austen Morgan may indeed be a unionist. But his legal writings on the Belfast Agreement have been cited by the Irish Supreme Court. I don’t think the 1983 backstory you mention has been.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Roger, please explain to me how anyone without authority to enforce something, i.e., authority within a jurisdiction, is in any position to “guarantee” or affirm anything. Certainly the language of the Agreement speaks of recognition and affirmation, but these are simply good intentions without teeth. The North/South Ministerial Council, implementation bodies, The British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference are all organs of joint power sharing between the involved governments and please note that:

    “Any institution established by or under the Agreement may exercise the powers and functions thereby conferred on it in respect of all or any part of the island of Ireland notwithstanding any other provision of this Constitution conferring a like power or function on any person or any organ of State appointed under or created or established by or under this Constitution”

    “Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”

    This is a bald statement of the delegation of all Ireland joint sovereignty powers to the various bodies which articulate the co-operation of the governments involved. I know I’m “talking dirty” here, in a way that people responsible for not rocking the boat such as Austen Morgan simply cannot do, but as the old saying goes “it’s what you don’t know that hurts you.” As I’ve said above, it effects your Northern Ireland primarily, not mine. But there’s no warning those bent on ignoring these issues “when the sky is a bright canary yellow…”


    I’d advise you to learn not to trust Government lawyers interpretations and to start reading between the lines very very fast, that nine hundred year commitment you’re relying is well and truly over now.

  • Roger

    To your first question: Ireland has obligations under the Agreement. It guaranteed it would enforce them. Ditto for UK.

    The NSMC, BIC and BIIC are international bodies. None have any executive authority. And to attribute Joint Authority to the Agreement on the basis of these modest international bodies is nonsensical.

    The modest international bodies like Waterways Ireland have executive powers. That’s true. Hence the wording you highlight. Irish Lights of centuries and the Carlingfird and Foyle bodies of the 1950s were the same. Are you seriously saying that Waterways Ireland et al. amounts to Joint Authority? Obviously, if you are saying that, you’re also saying Ireland conceded that it was under the Joint Authority of the UK too. After all, these international bodies apply across the island of Ireland. So Ireland is in limbo too and under Jount Authority of the UK and Irish governments? I doubt Enda appreciates this startling news.

    Very fanciful indeed.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Irish citizens living in the six counties with their right to be Irish affirmed by both governments together British citizens living in the six counties with their right to be Irish affirmed by both governments, affirmed and guaranteed by both governments its not rocket science. The point about any international agreement is that if someone guarantees something they must have the ability to actually carry out this guarantee, which means both governments whose citizens make up the polity having the authority to do so in Northern Ireland.

    “The NSMC, BIC and BIIC are international bodies. None have any executive authority.”

    “Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”

    “and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island” note. I did not say absolute joint sovereignty, there is very little absolute sovereignty current anywhere on the globe anymore, just “joint sovereignty” which is clearly the case here. You can ignore this, and keep thinking “if I close my eyes the scary thing will not exist”, but as I’ve said it’s your version of NI which is effected.

  • Roger

    We’ve explored what the Agreement says about citizenship and how it’s perfectly usual for parties to an agreement to guarantee its enforcement.

    Concerning the rest. You seem not to understand the difference between the NSMC, BIC and BIIC (no executive powers) v Waterways Ireland et al. (executive powers). Waterways Ireland is indeed one of the institutions with executive powers established pursuant to the agreement. It is an international body established by Ireland and the UK. Within its very limited remit, the two states agree to equally pool the exercise of sovereignty. No one I’ve ever come across has claimed this means Ireland is under the joint sovereignty of the British and Irish governments. Are you claiming it is? If you are not claiming that but are claiming Northern Ireland is somehow under joint sovereignty under these arrangements, do tell us why Ireland’s position is any different to Northern Ireland’s.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You appear to be seeing joint sovereignty as some spectacular oddity rather than almost a norm for most polities since the Gobalisation craze hit and trade started controlling politics. You do know that many of the the arrangements with the EU were sharing of sovereignty issues do you not? If you perhaps look at the Kearney book (there’s a penny copy on Amazon at the moment) you’ll get some of the way in which this kind of thing works.

    Shared sovereignty arrangements have been very much a staple of solution thinking during the negotiations over the decade preceding the Belfast Agreement, and I’m surprised that its presence has not been better known publicly. It has been a staple issue also of federalist thinking within the EU.

    There’s a fine article “Beyond the Endgame of Sovereignty” in the Independent on Sunday , May 19th 1991, which was expanded by its author Neal Ascherson in his essay ‘Europe of the Regions’ in the collection of essays “We are all Europeans Now”. While the elite reaction against this trend has impelled those advocating exit from Europe, I will be interested to find just how difficult it will be to re-establish anything even approaching discreet Sovereignty in Britain in a world which has firmly turned its back on this concept in the interests of shared trade deals with the rest of the world.

    So, rather than me making eccentric claims, its yourself who is avoiding looking not only at the clear intentions of the Agreement but also at how things are being done in the big world outside of the wee six by the big boys who can boss us all about, Cerberus, rather than any residual “national” government . “Wake up Neo…”

  • Skibo

    It would not be my place to sell the possibility of Ireland united within the UK but I know I have seen on other sites where there is some minor discussion on it below the border. No doubt when reunification happens, that discussion may increase.

  • Skibo

    I have been to a few pubs under those conditions and have actually had the time of my life and been introduced to drinks that I would not have tried before. I actually still drink one of them as a favourite.
    You should try it sometime. It expands the mind and makes you a more international man of mystery.

  • grumpy oul man

    So the UVF, carried out the first murders, the most lethal bomb attack (Dublin and Monaghan) Mc Gurks bar, hundreds of random sectarian killings, drug dealers, run protection rackets, etc, etc are OK to invade little villages with.
    Peter was not working with active terrorists when he went into Clontribet?
    Sticking a red beret on to form a terror group that went on to kill a lot of people does not count, need i go on.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    If you’re arguing that the UVF terror gang are somehow “ok” then you’re arguing with yourself.

    I regard ALL terrorist gangs, and their political mouthpieces as equally contemptible. I note your own focus looks in one direction alone. You appear reluctant to address my SF IRA points.

    “Clontribet”? Clontibret was not “ok”. Yet in comparison to nationalist terrorist outrages that SF ‘reported’ on TV it was a rather tame affair. Robinson was (rightly) prosecuted for a public order offence.

    Robinson fronted the ‘Ulster Resistance’ get together at the Ulster Hall alongside Paisley in 1986 as they flaffed around to try to respond to the Anglo Irish Agreement of the previous year. Totally reprehensible and dangerous behaviour.

    In 1988, when in collusion with loyalist terrorist gangs UR imported weaponry from South Africa (and drove into a security force sting in which the bulk of the weapons were seized, terrorists arrested, and, equally importantly, the South African weapons’ access route was busted and was never able to be reinstated) Robinson, Paisley etc left.

    Can you produce evidence that they stuck around to ‘explain’ the need for the importation of the weapons on TV or in newspapers, perhaps tagged as “War News”?

    You argued that unionists murdered in 1966 to “maintain the status quo”. I pointed out that in fact the ‘status quo’ (the police, judiciary and Government) had moved quickly to arrest and jail the murderers, and then to enact a law making the organisation the murderers claimed to represent illegal. As these facts do not accord with your “history” you simply avoid accepting them and seek comfort elsewhere.

    Yet I take something positive from this. Your attempt to equate the symbiotic relationship that is ‘SFIRA’ with your conjured ‘DUPUVF’ suggests a modicum of embarrassment about the allegiance shown by the nationalist community towards its majority political representatives’ antecedents.

    That I guess is as good as it’s going to get as far as you’re concerned.

  • grumpy oul man

    Lets go back to the start, (and i never argued that the loyalist murder gangs were OK but unionists don’t ever seem to have had a problem with them)
    Firstly you claimed something along the lines of , our side don’t support or vote for terrorists ( i believe i proved your side does) them you stated that the Garda could sleep in their beds in the event of a UI because your side does not plant car bombs , this i also showed to be untrue.
    As for Paisley Robinson (and nearly every other unionist politician) they make the snowballs but don’t throw them,
    UR, dressing people up in red berets, making inflammatory speeches and acting surprised when guns appear and people start dying then going “nothing to do with me guv” is not really a defense most balanced people would accept.